The demise of comment sections has been happening for a decade.

Publishers mostly were disgusted with the vulgar tone of comments, which they didn’t have the time to moderate, so it was easier just to shut it down.

Those concerns were before the cancel culture digital purge that started in the past few years, and now has accelerated with the blocking of Trump, his supporters, and even mainstream conservatives from social media. More than anything, the takedown of Parler for threats on the platform that were no worse than what is common on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere, has sent a chill through the non-liberal internet.

On January 14, American Thinker founder Thomas Lifson posted a blog post about the comment section:

It is news to almost nobody who reads American Thinker that a political witch hunt is underway. Parties in and out of government are looking for excuses to suppress and destroy voices that oppose the left.

Because AT lacks the ability to monitor comments in real time, and because our position that comments are a forum, not something we publish, is being called into question, we can no longer publish comments.

We take this action with a heavy heart.

Lifson’s post doesn’t explain what the issue is, but it must be serious. This follow up post by Deputy Editor Andrea Widburg presented it as a life-or-death issue for AT’s existence:

Yesterday, we announced that we are closing comments at American Thinker. We immediately received a couple of hundred very unhappy, angry, and sometimes insulting emails about that decision. Without divulging why we made that decision, here are a few points to ponder.

First, 90% of the assumptions in the emails were wrong. This meant that a lot of people were theorizing in advance of their data. America is currently deeply destabilized, and things are happening that most people can’t imagine. Sometimes, those things hit close to home.

Second, it’s lovely that many of you came here for the conversation in the comments. To have the comments abruptly turned off was the equivalent of our breaking up your party, the great party at which all the guests were interesting and delightful. We appreciate what an unpleasant shock and disappointment that was, and we hate to be the mean parent who broke up the party, but, again, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

Third, this site is a labor of love for everyone involved, especially for its founder, Thomas Lifson. If you imagine that he would ever authorize such a difficult decision when there were other choices to be made, well, you don’t know Thomas. All of us who work here agree that the choice was binary: shut down the comments or shut down the site. Or to use an analogy, amputate the limb or watch the patient die. Looked at from that perspective, there really was no choice.

That still doesn’t tell us much, but it appears that it is unrelated to the AT apology to Dominion.

If they can take down the President, if they can take down Parler, they can take down a small website.

We don’t tolerate threats of violence in our comment section, and we never have. Thanksfully, it has not been a serious problem. Our refusal to use a third-party comment platform has kept Legal Insurrection comment section more civil than most; you have to register with us specifically, you can’t just drive by and throw verbal grenades.

We do our best to monitor the comment section to avoid such content, but we also need reader help. If you see something that slipped through our net threatening or proposing violence, please contact us. Preserving the comment section is in everyone’s interest.


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